The M.T.A. board voted this morning to amend its policy of handing out free E-ZPasses and transit passes to current and former board members. Now, only current board members will get the perks and only for use on official M.T.A. business.
Andrew Cuomo, who came out strongly against the M.T.A.’s previous policy, was glad:
I’m waiting to hear back whether Cuomo will still try to recoup the money.
The Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff, like Cuomo, also released a statement today. Unlike Cuomo, Russianoff continued to be critical of the policy, and pushed for greater oversite of public authorities like the M.T.A.
The full Straphangers release:
I do think that the policy on free passes raises at least two important issues.
First, the composition of the MTA board is unrepresentative of the riders who use your system — whether it’s by income, gender or race. No wonder your customers and their elected officials howled when they heard that MTA Board Members were exempted from feeling the impact of fare and toll hikes for life.
Your appointing officials — the Governor, Mayor and suburban County Executives — must commit to more diversity in their nominees to the Board. And they must find ways to make sure that all Board members regularly use transit.
Second, the MTA has a credibility problem as it asks the State, the City and possibly its riders and motorists to come to its financial rescue. The public’s skepticism has been fueled by real events, from the MTA’s spending $400 million in cost overruns for its building in lower Manhattan to the on-again, off-again service enhancements.
In all fairness, the MTA has taken steps to make itself more transparent, like releasing its preliminary budget six months in advance. But this is not enough.
Now you can take the view that negative stories are inevitable, so why bother. Or you can try to take action to improve how the public views the MTA
The state legislature has been considering beefing up a public authority oversight board, designed to open up the MTA’s policies and decisions to the public. I would urge the Board to embrace the benefits of an oversite board. Another step would be creating an easy way for the public to keep track of your contracts.
The choice is yours: You can either chalk up the EZ-Pass furor as an unfair turn of the screw. Or you can act to make the MTA more diverse and accountable.